Texas Governor Greg Abbott calls on both licensed professionals and members of the public to report parents of transgender minors, if they believe the minors are receiving gender affirming medical care.
This directive was part of a Tuesday letter Abbott, a Republican sent to the Department of Family and Protect Services. It asked that it "conduct an prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of minors going through "elective processes for gender transitioning."
Abbott's letter comes in the wake of an opinion released Monday Monday Monday Monday, by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. It stated that allowing minors access to transition care, such as hormone therapy, puberty blockers and surgery, is child abuse.
After the Legislature failed to pass a bill last year that would have made such care for minors a felony, Paxton issued his opinion. An opinion is a interpretation of an existing law. It does not alter the law, but it can have an impact on how it is enforced.
Abbott sent Tuesday's letter asking licensed professionals working with children, including teachers, nurses, doctors, and others, to report such claims. Abbott stated that the state law provides criminal penalties for failing to report child abuse.
Advocates claim that Paxton's opinion as well as Abbott's letter were politically motivated. They point out that they were published just before the March 1 Republican primary. Both men also face a competitive field in their re-election bids.
Adri Perez is a policy and advocacy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. He said that Paxton was trying to distract attention from the problems plaguing the campaign. Paxton is currently being tried on 2015 charges of Securities Fraud. He is also under FBI investigation for allegations of corruption and abuse of office. Paxton's office didn't respond to a request for comment.
Perez stated that "no Texas court or country has ever found that child abuse can be caused by gender-affirming care."
Brian Klosterboer is a staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas. He stated in a statement, "Cannot change Texas law or usurp constitutional rights of Texas families."
Klosterboer said, "But they spread fear & misinformation and could encourage false reporting of child abuse at a moment when DFPS faces a crisis in its foster care system." "The law clearly states that parents, guardians, or doctors can provide treatment for transgender youth in accordance to prevailing standards of care. A parent or guardian that loves and supports their child, and who is taking them to licensed health care providers, is not engaged in child abuse.
It is unclear if Abbott and Paxton could force the Department of Family and Protective Services and any other state agencies to investigate allegations of child abuse against parents of trans children, without changing the law.
Abbott's directive has been resisted by at least one county official. Christian Menefee is the elected attorney representing Department of Family and Protective Services in civil cases involving child abuse in Harris County. Houston is represented by him. He stated in a statement that Paxton and Abbott were "ignoring medical professionals and deliberately misrepresenting law to the disadvantage of transgender children and families."
He stated that his office would not be participating in "bad faith political games". "As lawyers in these cases, we have a duty to inform the courts what the law actually says. We will continue to adhere to the laws as they are written, not General Paxton’s politically motivated and legally incorrect "opinion".
Nearly two dozen states have considered legislation to ban access to certain or all of the gender-affirming medical treatment for transgender minors in the past year. Texas was one of the states that considered legislation that would have charged parents and doctors who provide transgender care with a crime. Only Arkansas and Tennessee have passed restrictions on care for minors. A federal judge prevented Arkansas' law to take effect in July.
The White House has recently stepped up its response anti-LGBTQ state actions. has spoken out against Abbott's directive Wednesday, in a statement to The Dallas Morning News.
Karine Jean-Pierre (the White House's deputy principal press secretary) stated that Texas conservative officials and others should not be involved in health care decisions that cause unnecessary tension between pediatricians. "No parent should have to suffer the pain of having a politician stand in their way of getting life-saving treatment for their child."
Rachel Levine is the assistant secretary for health and was the first openly transgender Senate confirmed federal official. She said that the Department of Health and Human Services stands with transgender youth and their doctors.
She stated that "our nation's top pediatricians support evidence-based and gender affirming care of transgender young adults."
Advocates of gender-affirming care restrictions argue that minors can't consent to treatment that involves permanent changes to their bodies. Advocates point out that all major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree that gender-affirming treatment is necessary for transgender youth. This is supported by decades of research.
The Endocrine Society is an international medical organization that studies hormones. It stated Wednesday in a statement that Abbott's directive "rejects evidence based transgender medical treatment."
The group released a statement saying that medical evidence should be used to inform treatment decisions. "The directive of the governor is a reflection of widespread misinformation regarding gender-affirming care. Young children who feel that their gender identity is not consistent with the birth record should be supported and offered mental health support.
According to the Endocrine Society, its clinical guideline, only reversible treatments are recommended for adolescents after they reach puberty. Hormone therapy can be started for older adolescents who are able to consent to partial irreversible treatment and have persistent gender incongruence. It is recommended that you delay surgery until 18 years of age in most states.